“Realistic is the adjective of cynics. Wherever you encounter skeptics, naysayers, and charlatans, you will always encounter this word. … Realistic is used to do two things simultaneously: one, to criticize. Two, to justify.” – Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity.
We each define what is real for us. We also buy into other people’s definitions, especially if they are important to us. And when people say "be realistic" they tend to mean their reality, not ours.
Our beliefs colour our perceptions of the world. They affect our actions by fuelling feelings of fear or love. Aside from physical and testable facts like gravity, the value of Pi, and evolution, reality is amazingly pliable. Our objectivity is often not as objective, or as true to ourselves, as we’d like to believe it is. And we all carry other people’s realities; otherwise known as “common wisdom.”
Chris also wrote: “’Let’s be realistic about this’ = one of the saddest things ever spoken.” When we let other people’s reality limit our potential to create a unique, authentic reality for ourselves, we are letting ourselves down.
Next time someone says “Let’s be realistic about this”, take a moment to consider whose reality they are referring to.